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How to Manage Fertility Treatments and Work

Having fertility treatment of any kind can be mentally, emotionally and physically challenging. In addition to the challenges you may face while going through fertility treatment, you may also be trying to juggle work commitments and treatment appointments. It’s important to understand if your workplace has a fertility leave policy and what it entails. Here we explore how to find a good balance, what rights you have during fertility leave and if you can take time-off. 

Why should you be thinking about managing fertility treatments, time-off and work?

Fertility treatments require multiple appointments with your fertility clinic. You may be able to attend online video consultations with your doctor, but you will need to attend the clinic for investigations, receiving and signing consents, multiple ultrasound monitoring appointments throughout any hormone stimulation and appointments for any procedures. 

While some appointments are shorter, some procedures would require time off work. The Fertility Network conducted a survey in 2016 that revealed that 50% of respondents needed more than a week off of work during a fertility treatment cycle, with the average number of days off being 8.741

A more recent study showed that 60% of respondents felt the need to hide the reason for time taken off for fertility appointments and 36% had to take increased sickness absence2

Why fertility treatments and time-off can be hard to discuss at work?

Going through fertility treatments can create a range of complex emotions. Some may feel uncomfortable sharing details of their treatment with employers, or even with close friends or family. This can be due to various reasons. In one survey some respondents expressed a desire for privacy due the stigma or embarrassment of having fertility problems or undergoing fertility treatment. Some worried that it would entail having to provide continuous updates to people they work with throughout the highs and lows of fertility treatment. Others expressed a concern for their employer not understanding or that any fertility leave they take may affect future career prospects1

What can you do?

  • Figure out how much time you might need to take fertility leave: It may be a good idea to speak to your consultant about how much time-off you may need to take from work to accommodate any treatment. It’s important to remember that ultrasound monitoring appointments are scheduled once you’ve started the hormone stimulation, which can be scheduled at short notice every 1-3 days until your egg collection. 
  • Talk to your colleagues: You may want to talk to your colleagues about any potential absence from work. There’s no obligation to share that you’re having fertility treatment with people at work, but you may want to explain that you’re having medical treatment and that you will need to take time-off for some appointments.
  • Talk to your boss or HR: While you may not feel comfortable disclosing all of the details of any treatment, it may be a good idea to inform your place of work that you may need time off. Some workplaces may have a policy in place for taking time off for fertility treatment. In addition, clinics can provide a letter stating medical leave without providing specifics. 
  • Understand your rights: If part of your treatment includes having an embryo transfer, from a legal perspective you are considered pregnant. This means you have the same rights as a pregnant person in regards to medical leave and protection from discrimination for being pregnant3
  • Make time for yourself: Going through any fertility treatment can be so time consuming that you may feel like you lose yourself, both in and out of work, on the way. Be sure to take time for yourself and indulge in any type of selfcare you may need.
  • Find support where you need: Some people don’t feel comfortable opening up to family and friends that they’re receiving treatment, and sometimes it can be hard to get the right support from a partner if you’re having treatment with one. Others can find it helpful to get support from a counsellor, through support groups or social media, where they can find people who have been through a similar situation4. All licensed clinics should offer the opportunity to speak to a counsellor, but some may charge for it. If you’d like to find your own counsellor, you can visit the British Infertility Counselling Association and browse their directory of accredited therapists5

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